(continued from issue #42) by Bhiksuni Heng Hsien
Mahakasyapa, the next Elder listed in the Amitabha Sutra, received the transmission of the Buddha's mind-to-mind seal Dharma and became the first Buddhist Patriarch. His name is prefaced by the title:
maha, "great," which he deserves for four reasons: (I) he was the son of a great Brahman elder; (2) he renounced a large inheritance when he left home; (3) he cultivated all twelve of the ascetic practices; and (4) he was esteemed by great men.
Second, ancient Sanskrit dictionaries list a word kasya as
a kind of spirituous drink. Another Chinese translation of Kasyapa's name was
"Light-Drinking Clan."2 The Sanskrit root pa- means "drink,"
and there is also a root kas- meaning "shine." There is no surviving
example of the use of the word kasya to mean light, but the traditional Chinese
explanation of Kasyapa's name as related to/of the family of Light-Drinkers
suggests the meaning "light" for kasya may once have been current.
Mahakasyapa is now waiting in samadhi at Chicken Foot
Mountain in China to transmit Sakyamuni Buddha's bowl to Maitreya Bodhisattva
when that Bodhisattva becomes this world's next Buddha.