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AT that time there lived in Uruvela the Jatilas, Brahman hermits with matted hair, worshiping the fire and keeping a fire-dragon; and Kassapa was their chief. Kassapa was renowned throughout all India, and his name was honored as one of the wisest men on earth and an authority on religion. And the Blessed One went to Kassapa of Uruvela the Jatila, and said: "Let me stay a night in the room where you keep your sacred fire."

Kassapa, seeing the Blessed One in his majesty and beauty, thought to himself: "This is a great muni and a noble teacher. Should he stay overnight in the room where the sacred fire is kept, the serpent will bite him and he will die." And he said: "I do not object to your staying overnight in the room where the sacred fire is kept, but the serpent lives there; he will kill you and I should be sorry to see you perish."

But the Buddha insisted and Kassapa admitted him to the room where the sacred fire was kept. And the Blessed One sat down with body erect, surrounding himself with watchfulness. In the night the dragon came, belching forth in rage his fiery poison, and filling the air with burning vapor, but could do him no harm, and the fire consumed itself while the World-honored One remained composed. And the venomous fiend became very wroth so that he died in his anger. When Kassapa saw the light shining forth from the room he said: "Alas, what misery! Truly, the countenance of Gotama the great Sakyamuni is beautiful, but the serpent will destroy him."

In the morning the Blessed One showed the dead body of the fiend to Kassapa, saying: "His fire has been conquered by my fire." And Kassapa thought to himself. "Sakyamuni is a great samana and possesses high powers, but he is not holy like me."

There was in those days a festival, and Kassapa thought: "The people will come hither from all parts of the country and will see the great Sakyamuni. When he speaks to them, they will believe in him and abandon me." And he grew envious. When the day of the festival arrived, the Blessed One retired and did not come to Kassapa. And Kassapa went to the Buddha on the next morning and said: "Why did the great Sakyamuni not come?"

The Tathagata replied: "Didst thou not think, O Kassapa, that it would be better if I stayed away from the festival?" And Kassapa was astonished and thought: "Great is Sakyamuni; he can read my most secret thoughts, but he is not holy like me."

The Blessed One addressed Kassapa and said: "Thou seest the truth, but acceptest it not because of the envy that dwells in thy heart. Is envy holiness? Envy is the last remnant of self that has remained in thy mind. Thou art not holy, Kassapa; thou hast not yet entered the path." And Kassapa gave up his resistance. His envy disappeared, and, bowing down before the Blessed One, he said: "Lord, our Master, let me receive the ordination from the Blessed One."

And the Blessed One said: "Thou, Kassapa, art chief of the Jatilas. Go, then, first and inform them of thine intention, and let them do as thou thinkest fit." Then Kassapa went to the Jatilas and said: "I am anxious to lead a religious life under the direction of the great Sakyamuni, who is the Enlightened One, the Buddha. Do as ye think best."

The Jatilas replied: "We have conceived a profound affection for the great Sakyamuni, and if thou wilt join his brotherhood, we will do likewise." The Jatilas of Uruvela now flung their paraphernalia of fire-worship into the river and went to the Blessed One.

Nadi Kassapa and Gaya Kassapa, brothers of the great Uruvela Kassapa, powerful men and chieftains among the people, were dwelling below on the stream, and when they saw the instruments used in fire-worship floating in the river, they said: "Something has happened to our brother. And they came with their folk to Uruvela. Hearing what had happened, they, too, went to the Buddha.

The Blessed One, seeing that the Jatilas of Nadi and Gaya, who had practiced severe austerities and worshiped fire, were now come to him, preached a sermon on fire, and said: "Everything, O Jatilas, is burning. The eye is burning, all the senses are burning, thoughts are burning. They are burning with the fire of lust. There is anger, there is ignorance, there is hatred, and as long as the fire finds inflammable things upon which it can feed, so long will it burn, and there will be birth and death, decay, grief, lamentation, suffering, despair, and sorrow. Considering this, a disciple of the Dharma will see the four noble truths and walk in the eightfold path of holiness. He will become wary of his eye, wary of all his senses, wary of his thoughts. He will divest himself of passion and become free. He will be delivered from selfishness and attain the blessed state of Nirvana."

And the Jatilas rejoiced and took refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.

Next: The Sermon At Rajagaha