Again, Mahākāśyapa, the elder, oversaw the compilation of the threefold treasury of Dharma on Mt. Gŗdhrakūta. When all the beings which he was able to cross over had been crossed over, he wished to follow the Buddha by entering nirvana. After he had risen in the early morning and had gone into The City of the Kings' Abode to make his alms rounds, he ascended Mt. Gŗdhrakūta and told all of his disciples, "Today I shall enter the nirvana without residue." After he had said this he went into his dwelling and sat in full lotus whereupon non-outflow dhyana absorption permeated his being.
The disciples of Mahākāśyapa went into The City of Kings' Abode and told all of the gentry, "Are you aware or are you not that the Venerable Mahākāśyapa is this very day going to enter the nirvana without residue?" When the various gentry folk heard these words, they became greatly saddened and distressed, saying, "The Buddha has already crossed into extinction. Mahākāśyapa maintains and protects the Dharma of the Buddha. Now, today, he too is about to enter the nirvana without residue." In the late afternoon, the various gentry folk and the bhikshus all assembled on Mt. Gŗdhrakūta. In the late afternoon Mahākāśyapa, the elder, arose from dhyana, joined the assemblage and sat down.
Then he spoke in praise of the teaching of impermanence, saying, "Because all composite dharmas are a product of causes and conditions, they are therefore impermanent. Because, formerly nonexistent, they now exist, and then pass again into nonexistence, they are therefore, impermanent. Because they are impermanent they do therefore conduce to suffering. Because they conduce to suffering, they are therefore not self. Because they are not self, he who is possessed of wisdom should not become attached to the concepts of 'I' and 'mine.' If one becomes attached to 'I' and 'mine,' then one becomes subject to an immeasurable amount of worry, distress, suffering and affliction. In all worldly spheres, one should abhor and seek libera- tion from desires." He spoke like this in many ways about the suffering inherent in the world, leading forth his mind to cause it to enter upon nirvana.
After he had delivered this discourse, he donned the samghātï robe obtained from the Buddha, and, taking hold of the bowl and robe and grasping his staff, just like the golden-winged garuda bird, he rose up into space, appearing in the four different physical postures of sitting, lying down, walking and standing. His one body then manifested an immeasurable number of bodies which filled up the world to the east. Then these immeasurable number of bodies became one body again. From the top of his body he threw forth flames while from below he gushed forth water. Then, from the top of his body he gushed forth water while from below he threw forth flames. In the south, in the west, and in the north as well, it was also like this.
After the minds of those assembled had felt aversion to the world and had then been brought to delight, on the top of Mt. Gŗdhrakūta, with bowl and robe, he uttered an oath, "May my body be caused to not decay, so that when Maitreya becomes a Buddha, this skeleton of mine will appear once again, and on account of these causes and conditions beings will obtain deliverance."
To be continued
English translation © 1996 Dharmamitra.
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Reprinted with permission of Kalavinka.