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Venerable Mahakassapa
Other name(s) Mahākāśyapa
Religious career
Teacher Gautama Buddha

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Mahākāśyapa (Mahakassapa) or Kāśyapa was a brahman of Magadha, who became one of the principal disciples of Śākyamuni Buddha and who convened and directed the first council. Mahākāśyapa is one of the most revered of the Buddha's early disciples. He is often depicted in statuary together with Ananda, each standing to one side of the Buddha.

Zen purports to lead its adherents to insights akin to that mentioned by Śākyamuni Buddha in his Flower Sermon in which he held up a white flower and just admired it in his hand.[1] Mahākāśyapa smiled faintly, and Śākyamuni Buddha picked that disciple as one who truly understood him and who was worthy to be his successor.[2]

The words of the Śākyamuni Buddha addressed to Mahākāśyapa are described below:[3]

I possess the true Dharma eye, the marvelous mind of Nirvana, the true form of the formless, the subtle dharma gate that does not rest on words or letters but is a special transmission outside of the scriptures. This I entrust to Mahākāśyapa.[3]

Pipphali Cave in Rajgir, where Maha Kassappa is recorded to have stayed.

Thus, a way within Buddhism developed which concentrated on direct experience rather than on rational creeds or revealed scriptures. Zen is a method of meditative religion which seeks to enlighten people in the manner that the Mahākāśyapa experienced.[2]

In the Song of Enlightenment (證道歌 Zhèngdào gē) of Yǒngjiā Xuánjué (665-713)[4]—one of the chief disciples of Huìnéng, the 6th patriarch of Chan Buddhism—it is written that Bodhidharma was the 28th patriarch in a line of descent from Mahākāśyapa, a disciple of Śākyamuni Buddha, and the first patriarch of Chan Buddhism:

Mahākāśyapa was the first, leading the line of transmission;

Twenty-eight Fathers followed him in the West;
The Lamp was then brought over the sea to this country;
And Bodhidharma became the First Father here:
His mantle, as we all know, passed over six Fathers,
And by them many minds came to see the Light.[5]

According to Chinese legend, the monk Ji Gong is a reincarnation of Mahākāśyapa (known as the Taming Dragon arhat).

In Lotus Sutra Chapter 6 (Bestowal of Prophecy), the Buddha bestows prophecies of enlightenment on the disciples Mahakashyapa, Subhuti,
Maha Katyayana, and Mahamaudgalyayana.

External links


  1. Some oral lore traditions state it was a rare Udumbara flower of the Lotus Sutra.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Great religions of the world. Center for Distance Learning. Tarrant County College District
  3. 3.0 3.1 Zen Buddhism: A History (India & China) By Heinrich Dumoulin. Translated by James W. Heisig, Paul F. Knitter. Contributor John McRae. Published 2005. World Wisdom, Inc. Religion / World. Religions. 387 pages. ISBN 0941532895. page 9
  4. Chang, Chung-Yuan (1967). "Ch'an Buddhism: Logical and Illogical".
  5. Suzuki, Daisetz Teitaro (1948). Manual Of Zen Buddhism, 50.
Preceded by
Gautama Buddha
Buddhist Patriarch Succeeded by

bo:འོད་སྲུང་། cs:Mahákášjapa ko:마하가섭 hi:महाकश्यप id:Mahakassapa ja:大迦葉 ru:Махакашьяпа th:พระอุรุเวลกัสสปะ zh:大迦葉