Why Mahakasyapa Chose 1000 Arhats
Question: At this time there were innumerable Arhats such as these. Why did he select only a thousand men and no more?
Answer: When King Bimbisāra gained the Way, 84,000 other officials and subordinates also gained the Way. At that time the King instructed those in the palace to always prepare enough food to make offerings to a thousand people. King Bimbisāra did not suspend this practice. At that time thought, "If we are always having to [go forth and] beg for food, there will be non-Buddhists who insist on aggressively imposing themselves [on us] with objections and queries, [causing] inefficiency and lapses in [our] Dharmic endeavors. Now, in the city of , [they] always prepare food to donate to a thousand people. We shall be able to dwell here to collect and compile the repository of scriptures. Because of this he selected 1000 people and was unable to choose more.
Ananda's Banishment from the Dharma-Compilation Council
At that time Mahakasyapa arrived with a thousand men at the city of Rajagrha on Mount Grdhrakuta. He informed King Ajatasatru, "In providing food for us, have it brought to us each day. We are now in the process of compiling and collecting the repositories of scriptures and cannot be distracted by other activities." They dwelt therein for the three months of the summer retreat. During the initial fifteen days, at the time of the recitation of the prohibitions, they assembled the harmonious Sangha together.
Mahakasyapa entered dhyana absorption and, using the heavenly eye, surveyed the Assembly to see who still had afflictions which had not been brought to an end and thus who should be expelled therefrom. There was but one person, Ananda, who had not put them to an end. The other nine hundred and ninety-nine had ended all outflows, were pure, and were devoid of defilements. Mahakasyapa arose from dhyana absorption and, from the midst of the Assembly, pulled Ananda out by the hand, saying, "We are now engaged in collecting and compiling the repository of scriptures in the midst of the pure Assembly. Because your fetters have not yet been brought to an end, you should not remain here."
At this time Ananda was ashamed, wept sorrowfully, and thought to himself, "For twenty-five years I have followed along with and served the World Honored One, providing him with assistance. Never before have I been so bitterly distressed! The Buddha was truly greatly virtuous, kind, compassionate and patient. After he had this thought, he addressed Mahakasyapa, saying, "The strength of my abilities is such that I could have gained the Way long ago. It's just that the Arhats in the Buddha's Dharma wouldn't provide assistance or carry out directives. It is only because of this that I retain residual fetters which haven't yet been entirely cut off."
Ananda said, "I felt pity for Gautami. Moreover, the Dharma of all Buddhas of the three ages has had a fourfold community. Why then should only our Shakyamuni Buddha be without it?"
English translation © 1996 Dharmamitra. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission of Kalavinka (http://www.teleport.com/~dh-mitra/)
to be continued