Fire worshipers

During his wanderings, the Buddha came to a place called Uruvela, where there lived a thousand fire-worshiping ascetics, who twisted their long hair into tangled strands. They were led by three hermits, and all of them bore the name of Kassap. Kassapa Uruvela had five hundred students, the River Kassapa had three hundred, and the Kassapa Gaya had two hundred.

Buddha went to the retreat place of Kassapa Uruvela and asked to spend the night in a fiery cave, where the ascetic performed his ritual worship. Kassapa did not mind, but warned the Buddha that the terrible naga, the dragon-like serpent, lives in a cave. He was unusually powerful and had deadly poison, and, almost certainly, had to kill the Buddha. The Buddha seemed pleased to risk his life in this way, so Kassapa, slightly surprised, agreed to allow him to remain in the fiery cave.

Buddha entered the cave, laid a reed mat and settled down to meditate. When the dragon-serpent saw this, he became very angry and let smoke into the room, intending to escort the uninvited guest, but Buddha replied that he let out even more smoke. Then the naga fell into a rage and created a flame, but the Buddha answered him with his own flame, and it seemed that the fire cave was burning like a huge furnace. "Well, this monk has come to an end!" Kassap thought smugly when he saw this. But in the morning, to his surprise, the Buddha emerged unscathed from the fiery cave and showed him a snake, which now became only a small harmless snake, curled up in his alms bowl. Kassapa reluctantly had to admit what had happened, but he considered himself superior to Buddha and said to himself: “This monk is really powerful, but he is not such an enlightened master as I am!”

The next evening, Buddha went to a nearby forest, and at night the four great kings, the protector of the world, came to pay his respects and listen to his teachings. When the Buddha taught, great light illuminated the forest and the sky, so that it could be seen from everywhere. In the morning, Kassap, who observed this magical phenomenon, asked the Buddha who visited him last night. When the Buddha told him that the four divine kings came to listen to his teachings, Kassapa was deeply impressed, but again encouraged himself with the thought: "This monk is really powerful, but he is not such an enlightened master like me!"

Soon after this, a great fire ceremony was to take place, to which many were supposed to come from afar, to bring food and other good offerings. Kassapa thought to himself not without concern: “Many of my admirers will come tomorrow, and if this monk Gotama shows them one of his miracles, his fame will increase, and mine will decrease. I hope he does not come.”

Knowing what Kassapa was thinking, the Buddha withdrew and was not present at the fire ceremony. The next day, hiding the relief and pretending to be disappointed, Kassapa asked the Buddha where he was. Buddha directly answered Kassapa that he had read his thoughts and, knowing his fears, set off. Kassapa was somewhat embarrassed, but nevertheless thought again: "This monk is really powerful, but he is not such an enlightened master as I am!"

Days passed, and everything went on in the same vein. Buddha again and again showed his tremendous powers, and the arrogant Kassapa continued to think to himself: "He is not an enlightened master, like me!"

Wanting to help him see the truth, Buddha once decided that a sharp blow was needed. He directly told Kassapa: “Listen, Kassapa, you are not an enlightened master and you are not approaching becoming one. Moreover, nothing that you do will make you such and will not even allow you to enter the path to enlightenment. You understand?"

From this sharp blow, Kassapa’s self-deception was finally dispelled, and he realized what a deep chasm separates him from Buddha. He humbly rushed to the feet of the Buddha and asked him to accept him as a disciple. Buddha joyfully agreed, but Kassapa had a large number of followers who believed in him, and he could not reject them without talking to them. Therefore, the Buddha insisted that before he accepted Kassapa as a disciple, Kassapa should explain his intentions to the disciples and relieve them of obligations towards him so that they themselves could choose their own spiritual path. As witnesses of recent events and seeing the power of the Buddha with their own eyes, all the Kassapa followers decided to join him and become disciples of the Buddha. They cut off their tangled hair, threw it into the river along with their ritual accessories, and dedicated themselves to the Buddha and his teachings.

Downstream of the River Kassapa and his followers, they saw strands and ritual objects floating along the waves, and they were curious about what was happening in the end. They were very worried about what happened to Kassapa Uruvela and his students, and went upstream to find out.

When they found out what happened, the River Kassapa asked Kassap Uruvela: "Is this better way?" "Sure, yes!" - was the answer. Therefore, the River Kassapa consulted with his three hundred disciples, and they all decided to become followers of the Buddha. Soon, another three hundred cut off hair and ritual objects sailed along the river.

They were noticed by Kassap Gaya and his followers. They, in turn, were also worried about the fate of their fellow fire-worshipers and rushed to Uruvela to find out what happened. Soon they, too, became convinced of the superiority of the teachings of Buddha and became his disciples. So the community of his followers replenished by another thousand people.

If, month after month, for one hundred years, someone will make sacrifices thousands of times, and the other person only for a single moment will honor the one who is (spiritually) developed, then it is better to perform this (deed), showing reverence, than to make sacrifices for a hundred years.

Let someone maintain a sacred fire in the forest for a hundred years, but if he reveres a (spiritually) developed person for at least a moment, then it is better to do this (act) expressing reverence than a hundred years (maintain a sacred fire).

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