Life of the Buddha

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(Part One) 21. The Serpent King

As soon as he had 60 disciples the Buddha sent them away to teach people everywhere. He left the Deer Park and turned southwards towards the Magadha country.

Along the way, on the banks of a river, there lived three brothers whose names were Uruvela Kassapa, Nadi Kassapa and Gaya Kassapa. Each lived with 500, 300 and 200 followers respectively.

One evening the Buddha visited Uruvela Kassapa’s hut and asked, “If it is not an inconvenience, may I spend a night in your kitchen?”

“I don’t mind, Great Gotama, but there is a fierce serpent king in the kitchen. I am afraid it will harm you,” said Uruvela Kassapa.

“Oh, I don’t mind,” answered the Buddha. “If you have no objection I will spent the night there.”

The Buddha went into the kitchen, spread some grass on the floor for bedding, and sat down. The fierce serpent king, hearing the noise, came slithering out of a hole in the wall, opening his mouth to bite the Buddha.”I will not harm this serpent king. I will subdue him by my love and kindness,” thought the Buddha. The angrier the serpent king became, the more kindly and loving was Buddha. The serpent king could do him no harm.

Early next morning Uruvela Kassapa went to the Buddha and found him sitting in deep meditation. The ascetic was surprised and asked the Buddha whether the serpent king had harmed him. “Here, see for yourself,” said the Buddha and uncovered his begging bowl. Out came the fierce serpent king and the ascetic started to run away in fright. But the Buddha stopped him, saying that he had a way to tame any fierce serpent.

“Can I learn?” asked the ascetic. The Buddha then gave his teachings and Uruvela Kassapa, his brothers and all their followers became devotees of the Buddha’s Dharma.