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Maha Kaccana

Posted by myanmarpedia on September 27, 2007

I. Immediate family of the Buddha
1.King Suddhodana(father)

2.Queen Maha Maya(mother)
3.Maha Pajapati Gotami(aunt and foster mother)
4.Yasodhara(cousin and wife)

II. Male Disciples
6.Sariputta (first chief male disciple)
7.Moggallana (second chief male disciple)
8.Ananda(cousin and personal attendant)
9.Maha Kassapa(preserver of the Dhamma)
10.Anuruddha (cousin and foremost in divine eye)
11.Maha kaccana (foremost in explaining deep and complex sayings )
12.Bakkula (foremost in good health and longevity)
13.Sivali (foremost in obtaining monastic requisites)
14.Angulimala(murderer turned saint)
16.Devadatta(cousin and brother-in-law)

III. Female Disciples
17.khema (first chief female disciple)
18.Uppalavanna (second chief female disciple)
19.Bhadda Kundalakesa(debating nun, foremost in quick understanding)
20.Patacara(foremost in discipline)
21.Sundari Nand (stepsister)
22.Bhadda Kapilani (foremost in recollecting past births)
23.Kisa Gotami (foremost in wearing coarse rag-robes)
25.Sona(foremost in effort)

IV. Royal Patrons
26.king Bimbisara
27.Queen mallika
28.King Pasenadi
29.Queen Samavati

V. Lay Disciples
30.Anathapindika(chief male lay disciple)
31.Visakha (chief female lay disciple)
32.Citta (foremost lay disciple in teaching the Dhamma)
33.Rohini(cousin of the Buddha)

Maha Kaccana

In the district of Ujjeni, in the capital city of Avanti, there lived a Brahmin couple of the Kaccayana clan named Tiritavaccha and Candima. As the Kaccayana clan was one of the oldest and most respected Brahmin clans they were very well-known and respected. They had a son whom they named Kancana (one with golden hue) because of his unusually golden skin. Kancana studied the Brahmanic Vedas and when he came of age replaced his father as court chaplain.

The king whom he served was known as Candapajjota, or ‘Pajjota the Violent’ due to his explosive temper. When the king heard that a Blessed One had arisen in the world a desire arose in him to see the Buddha. He requested his chaplain to invite the Buddha to Avanti as his guest. Kancana agreed to invite the Buddha if the King gave him permission to be ordained as a monk.

With the king’s permission Kancana and seven other courtiers left Avanti and set out for Savatthi, where the Buddha was residing. Inspired by the Buddha’s teaching, all eight attained Arahanthship together with the four analytical knowledges and were ordained as monks. Kancana was known as Kaccana after ordination. Kaccana enumerated the scenic beauty of Ujjeni to the Buddha, with the intention of inviting Him to visit Avanti. The Buddha, realizing that Kaccana was quite capable of inspiring the king, his ministers and townsfolk, asked Kaccana to return to Avanti with the former courtiers.

On the way back the eight monks stopped overnight at a city named Telapanali. In this city lived two beautiful maidens. One was a rich girl who had lost all her hair due to a disease. The other was a girl who had become impoverished after her parents’ death. The poor girl, who lived with her former governess, had thick, beautiful, long hair, which was the envy of the rich girl. The rich girl had repeatedly offered to buy the lustrous hair of the poor girl for a considerable amount of money, to make a wig. The poor girl, however, had refused her offer.

When the poor girl saw the serene monks on their alms round there arose a longing in her to offer them a meal. Not having the necessary means, she cut off her hair and sold it to the rich girl. Using the money, she bought the items required to make a delicious meal and prepared food for the eight monks. So great was her devotion and happiness in this gift that the effect of her wholesome deed was instant. Her hair grew back in all its splendour to its original length.

When Kaccana returned to Avanti, he informed the king of this incident. The king then requested that the girl be brought to Avanti and made her his chief consort. After this incident King Pajjota had great confidence in Kaccana. Before long Avanti was a single blaze of saffron robes as ministers and townsfolk embraced the Buddha’s Teaching and entered the Noble Order. The queen, who was deeply grateful to the elder for her good fortune, built for him a monastery in the Golden Grove Park.

The Buddha used two methods of teaching for His monks. Often he began with a short verse, on which he then elaborated with well-organised examples and similes, and then concluded by linking it back to the opening verse by summarizing the deep contents of His message. At times, however, He gave a short message full of deep meaning, on which He did not elaborate, as He wanted His Sangha to reflect on the message and ascertain its meaning through examination and contemplation. The more spiritually advanced met this challenge with enthusiasm, as it stretched their minds and helped them to grow. But at times the novice monks could not discern the meaning of His words. The novice monks then approached Kaccana and asked him to explain the Buddha’s words. Kaccana then elaborated on the teaching and explained it in a manner that was understood by the less advanced members of the Sangha. The Buddha, when informed of Kaccana’s explanation, consistently praised him for his interpretation by saying that He Himself would have given exactly the same answer had the question been put to Him. Because of Kaccana’s analytical, organised mind and his ability to penetrate the Dhamma and then simplify the message in a manner that was easy to understand, the Buddha declared him as foremost among the monks who elaborated on short verses taught by Him. Kaccana was known as Maha Kaccana to distinguish him from other monks who had the same Brahmanic name.

As with the other titles that the Buddha gave to His Sangha, this appointment was not a chance happening. The aspiration and meritorious deeds that led to this appointment were sown many aeons ago at the time of the Padumuttara Buddha. At that time Kaccana was born to a wealthy family and saw the Padumuttara Buddha appoint a Bhikkhu as foremost among monks who explain in detail short verses declared by Him. Kaccana was inspired by the Bhikkhu’s ability and a strong desire arose in him to strive for a similar title at the time of a future Buddha. Inviting the Buddha and His retinue of monks to his home for a week, he provided them with alms and necessities. He then built a stupa with a seat, which he had inlaid with gold and fitted with a jewelled parasol, for the Buddha Padumuttara.

Kaccana then prostrated himself respectfully in front of the Buddha and aspired to be the foremost monk who explained in detail short verses declared by a future Buddha. The Buddha Padumuttara, seeing that Kaccana’s aspiration would be fulfilled, prophesied that at the time of the Gotama Buddha, 100,000 aeons into the future, he would be born to a Brahmin family by the name of Kaccana and be declared as the monk foremost in explaining in detail the short verses declared by the Buddha Gotama.

The Buddha Padumuttara also made other prophesies about Kaccana’s future births. He declared that as a result of his meritorious deeds Kaccana would be the Lord of the Gods for 30 aeons. He would then return to the human world as a world monarch named Pabhassara. Kaccana continued in samsara performing meritorious deeds and renewing his aspiration until he was reborn as Kancana in the Kaccayana clan to fulfil his aspiration.

The text also indicates the origin of his unusually beautiful, golden complexion. Shortly after the Parinibbana of the Kassapa Buddha (the Buddha who preceded our Gotama Buddha), Kaccana had donated a golden brick to make a stupa in the name of the Kassapa Buddha and had made a wish to have a golden hue like the gold he had donated whenever he was reborn. This wish had resulted in Kaccana’s skin having an unusually beautiful, golden hue.

Maha Kaccana made an invaluable contribution to the preservation of the Dhamma. His lucid explanations of deep subjects have been carefully documented and as such helped not only the contemporaries of the Buddha but following generations. The text documents well his role as a great teacher. His primary role, however, was to elaborate on the statements made by the Buddha. Compared to the other great disciples there are only a few recorded instances where he taught the Dhamma to one person individually. His explanations and teachings are clear and to the point, using an analytical approach as opposed to using similes and examples.

Kaccana begins with a short utterance of the Buddha. He then goes on to explain in detail its hidden meaning. Eight Suttas found in the Nikayas, three in the Majjhima Nikaya, three in the Samutta Nikaya and two in the Anguttara Nikaya, are especially noteworthy. There are also in the Nikayas some teachings which are directly attributed to Maha Kaccana. These teachings have a distinctive flavour revealing the mind from which they were born. They are thorough, well-rounded, balanced and meticulous. Often Kaccana explains the essence of the verse with only a few words.

A few examples of Kaccana’s skill in explaining the deep meaning of the Buddha’s words and the Buddha’s praise of his skills follow:

One day when the Buddha was seated in meditation in the Nigrodha park in Kapillavatthu, an arrogant Sakyan named Dandapani approached Him and asked in a discourteous tone, “What does the recluse assert? What does he proclaim?”

The Buddha, realizing well Dandapani’s quarrelsome nature and intention, replied:

“Friend, I assert and proclaim such (a teaching) that one does not quarrel with anyone in the world, with its gods, with its maras and its Brahmas in this generation, with its recluses, Brahmins, its princes and its people; such that perceptions no more underlie that Brahmins who abide detached from sensual pleasures, without perplexity, free of worry, free from craving, for any kind of being.” (Majjhima Nikaya)

This reply was totally incomprehensible to Dandapani, who left, subdued. One monk who had not understood the meaning of the Buddha’s words inquired as to what exactly the Blessed One’s teaching was whereby one can avoid all quarrels and at the same time be free from the influence of craving.”

The Buddha’s deep reply was:

“Bhikkhus, as to the source through which perceptions and notions tinged by mental proliferation beset a person, if nothing is found to delight in, welcome, and hold to, this is the end of the underlying tendencies to lust, aversion, views, doubt, conceit, the desire for being, and ignorance; this is the end of reliance on rods and weapons, of quarrels, brawls, disputes, recriminations, malice, and false speech; here these evil, unwholesome states cease without remainder.” (Majjhima Nikaya)

The monks, however, could not comprehend the Buddha’s words. As the Buddha had retired to His quarters they did not want to question Him further. Instead, they approached Maha Kaccana and asked him for an explanation.

Maha Kaccana first informed them that it was the Buddha to whom they should go, for it was He who could best answer their questions. He reminded the monks that coming to him when the Buddha was present was like seeking heartwood among the branches and leaves of a tree when the trunk was present. Upon being told the circumstances, he explained the words of the Buddha which emanated from the doctrine of dependent origination, as follows:

“Dependent on the eye (and other sense organs), eye-consciousness (and other forms of sense consciousness), occur. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as condition, there is feeling. What one feels one perceives. What one perceives one thinks about. What one thinks about one mentally propagates. With what one has mentally propagated as the source, perceptions and notions (conditioning activities) tinged by mental propagation, beset a person with respect to past, future and present forms cognisable through the eye. The same pattern is repeated for each of the sense organs.” The elder then expanded and linked it with the teaching of the Doctrine of Dependent Origination and explained to the monks how everything is conditionally dependent on the preceding condition and ceases with the cessation of the preceding condition.

The Maha Kaccana Bhaddekaratta Sutta from the Majjhima Nikaya also illustrates Maha Kaccana’s gift in explaining the complex. A Bhikkhu named Samiddhi approached the Buddha and requested Him to dispense the Bhaddekaratta Sutta, which was in general known by memory to all the monks. The Buddha responded by saying:

“Let not a person revive the past
Or on the future build his hopes,
For the past has been left behind
And the future has not been reached.
Instead with insight let him see
Each presently arisen state;
Let him know that and be sure of it,
Invincibly, unshakeably.
Today the effort must be made;
Tomorrow death may come, who knows?
No bargain with Mortality can
Keep him and his hordes away.
But one who dwells thus ardently
Relentlessly by day and night —
It is he the Peaceful Sage has said,
Who has one fortunate attachment.”

The Buddha then arose and retired to His chambers. Samiddhi did not understand the Buddha’s poem, but he did not want to disturb Him. Approaching Maha Kaccana, Samiddhi saluted him respectfully and asked him the meaning of the poem.

After reminding Samiddhi that it was not appropriate that he should come to him when the Buddha was in residence, Kaccana took the first two lines of the poem and explained them by way of the six sense bases.

Starting with the sense base of the eye, he said, “One revives the past when one recollects the eye and the forms seen in the past, dwelling upon them with desire and lust. One builds up hope on the future when one sets one’s heart to experiencing future sense objects that one has not as yet encountered. One who does not bind himself to desire and lust resulting from past memories of sensory experience and yearnings for future sensory experiences is one who does not revive the past or build up hope on the future. Similarly, one whose mind is shackled by lust to the present sense faculties and their objects is one vanquished in regard to presently risen states, while one who is not bound by lust to the present sense faculties is called one invincible in regard to presently arisen states. The elder then repeated the above explanation using each of the other sense bases.

In this manner, using simple language, the elder advised the monks not to be attached to sense objects of the past, present and future. Instead, to strive with insight to observe the impermanence of all phenomena because death could strike anyone at any time. And one could not bargain with death. Maha Kaccana thus encouraged Samidhi not to waste a moment but to strive on with diligence to experience insight.

Later, when the monks told the Buddha of Maha Kaccana’s explanation, He praised the elder by saying that if He had been questioned, He too would have answered in the same manner.

Maha Kaccana also used his analytical abilities and organization skills to teach the Dhamma. The Majjhima Nikaya has a very interesting dialogue between the elder and King Avantiputta of Madhura, who was the grandson of King Candappajjoti of Avanti. Once when Maha Kaccana was residing in Madhura, King Avantiputta, having heard of his fame, approached the elder and questioned him. His question, however, was not a complex question from the higher teaching. It was a topic of importance that was weighing heavily on the Brahmins who thought that they were the superior ones chosen by Maha Brahma, their creator God. The noble caste rulers had established their supremacy over the entire Indian nation by claiming that they were the fairest caste, the purified, the sons of Brahma, His offspring – born of Brahma, created by Brahma, heirs of Brahma. At the time of the Buddha, the Brahmins had succeeded in establishing their supremacy over the whole Indian social system by declaring that those born to the Brahmin caste, to a Brahmin family, were the direct descendants of Maha Brahma, the title given to the creator God. They were the chosen people. They were the undisputed leaders and nobility. The Buddha, however, had denounced the degrading caste system and declared that it was not by birth that one was a Brahmin (nobleman), but by deeds.

King Avantiputta’s question to Maha Kaccana, who was from a very old, well-respected, and high-caste Brahmin family, had far-reaching, significant importance. The king attempted to justify this drive for power by appealing to the divinely ordained status, in keeping with the Brahmanic beliefs. He questioned the elder, who himself was of pedigreed Brahmin caste, about the supremacy of the Brahmins. The Elder then corrected his false views by saying:

“The claim of the Brahmins is just a saying in the world – one with no divine sanction at all.” Then, to prove his point further, the elder elaborated on his claim by saying: “Anyone of any social class who gains wealth can command the labour of those of other castes. Even a menial could enrol a Brahmin in his service. One of any caste who violates the principles of morality could be reborn in hell (Devadatta and King Ajatasattu) while one of any caste who observes the principles of morality and generosity could be reborn in a happy realm (Laja). One of any caste who breaks the law will be punished. One of any caste who renounces the world and becomes an ascetic will receive homage and respect (Sunita and Upali).” The Elder continued to conclude that these four castes (in existence at that time) were all the same, that there was no difference, no divine sanction in them at all.

At the end of the discussion King Avantiputta expressed his appreciation by saying, “I go to Master Maha Kaccana for my refuge, I go to the Dhamma for my refuge, I go to the Sangha for my refuge.” Maha Kaccana corrected him by saying, “Do not come to me for refuge. Go to the Fully Enlightened One, to whom I too go for refuge. When the king inquired as to the whereabouts of the Buddha, the elder informed him that the Blessed One had already attained Parinibbana, leading us to the conclusion that this discussion occurred after the passing away of the Buddha.

Not only was Maha Kaccana honoured and respected by the Sangha and lay disciples, he was also well-respected and honoured by the gods. Monks usually dispersed to various cities and monasteries for the rainy season. At the end of the rainy season they gathered at an assembly that was held by the Buddha to advise the monks and to admonish them for any indiscretions. Many monks travelled back to wherever the Buddha was residing for this assembly. Maha Kaccana was no exception. Often travelling from afar, he ensured that he was present for the after-rains assembly. The other elders, accustomed to seeing Maha Kaccana, kept a seat for him in the assembly.

On one such occasion Sakka, the king of the Tavatimsa Heaven, together with a large retinue, descended to earth to pay homage and respect to the great disciples. On noticing that Maha Kaccana was absent, Sakka thought to himself, “It would be good if the Noble Elder were to arrive so that I can pay respect to him”. Just then Maha Kaccana entered the assembly and sat down in the seat prepared for him. Overwhelmed with joy, Sakka dropped to his knees and, grasping the elder’s feet, paid homage to him by bowing low. He then showered him with garlands and incense.

Novice monks were affronted as to why Sakka had singled out Maha Kaccana for special homage. The Buddha, however, reproved them by saying that those monks, like Maha Kaccana, who guarded the sense doors (to ensure no unwholesome deeds were performed), were beloved by both gods and humans. He then declared:

“Even the Devas hold him dear,
Whose senses are subdued.
Like horses trained well by a charioteer,
Whose pride is destroyed,
And who is free from corruptions.”
— (Dhmmapada 94)

In this manner the Buddha assured His disciples that one did not have to resort to prayers to obtain favours from the gods. The Devas enjoyed favouring and honouring those who practised the virtues and kept the precepts of morality.

Maha Kaccana assisted many novice monks and lay devotees to understand the complex teachings. His keen mind, analytical abilities, and organizational skills helped many of the less spiritually advanced to grasp the deep teachings of the Buddha. Maha Kaccana was declared by the Buddha to be foremost among the monks who explained in detail brief statements proclaimed by the Buddha.


One Response to “Maha Kaccana”

  1. […] 9.Maha Kassapa(preserver of the Dhamma) 10.Anuruddha (cousin and foremost in divine eye) 11.Maha kaccana (foremost in explaining deep and complex sayings ) 12.Bakkula (foremost in good health and […]

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