Stories from Buddhism: Becoming A Monk

Guo Zheng

PureInsight | August 20, 2006

[] Among all the
disciples of the Buddha, Maha Kasyapa was generally acknowledged as an
ascetic (a person who renounces material comforts and leads a life of
austere self-discipline). Since he was a child, he preferred to be
alone and stayed away from crowds. He was extremely smart and sensible.
Although he was born into a rich family, he was never accustomed to the
luxurious life.

Time flew. Maha Kasyapa grew into a handsome young man. Because of his
outstanding talent and appearance, many young women admired him. His
parents doted on him and wanted to find him a well-matched and
beautiful bride. But when Maha Kasyapa became aware of it, he put off
marriage again and again. It is because what he wanted was
self-cultivation, and a wife would hinder the realization of his
dreams. But his parents didn't agree. They urged him to marry again and
again and were going to start looking for a wife for him regardless of
his consent.

Maha Kasyapa could no longer put it off. He had an idea. He painted a
portrait with the image of a young woman he saw during sitting
meditation. She was very beautiful, compassionate and solemn.

He gave the painting to his parents and said, "If you want me to get
married, find the woman in this painting. Otherwise I would rather live
by myself forever."

His parents found his request very difficult, so they discussed it with
their friends. Then they spread the news among all of their relatives
and friends so that whoever knew or heard of a beautiful maiden could
take a look at the portrait.

Coincidentally, a rich family in the neighboring city had a beautiful
daughter named Miaoxian. When her father found that the image in the
portrait looked almost exactly the same as his daughter, he sent a
message to Maha Kasyapa's parents that the young woman in the portrait
was his daughter.

The two families immediately made the engagement. The bride was
escorted to the groom's home as soon as the wedding date was
determined. On the wedding night however, the beautiful bride, in
brocade and wearing jade, was frowning. Maha Kasyapa was laden with
anxiety and silent too.

Finally, when the dawn came, Maha Kasyapa broke the silence, "Are you worried about something?"

"You ruined my happiness." Miaoxian answered.

Maha Kasyapa was surprised, "Are you in love with someone else?"

"No, you broke my dreams." Miaoxian shed tears.

"What did I do? Please explain it to me." Maha Kasyapa asked.

"I only wanted to practice self-cultivation, abolish the five desires,
and separate myself from the source of all suffering. But my parents
had a liking for your family's fortune. They wanted to ruin me in spite
of my will." Miaoxian said sadly.

Maha Kasyapa was overjoyed. This is the will of Heaven. He didn't want
to get married either, but his parents forced him. He also understood
that the source of all the human suffering was desire, so he detested
the five desires and wanted to practice self-cultivation without

Therefore, they decided to follow their wills. By name they were husband and wife, but in fact they were fellow practitioners.

His parents soon discovered an extra bed in their bedroom. They ordered the servants to take it away.

Maha Kasyapa said to Miaoxian, "Don't be frustrated. Let's take turns
to sleep and meditate. Isn't this even better for practicing
self-cultivation? They're actually urging us to cultivate more

Miaoxian became very happy upon hearing this. Then they followed Maha Kasyapa's suggestion.

One night, Miaoxian was sleeping in the bed. When Maha Kasyapa just
finished sitting meditation, he saw a poisonous snake next to the bed
and Miaoxian's hand was down by the edge of the bed and very close to
the snake. Maha Kasyapa was very worried, he quickly wrapped his hand
with cloth, gently held her hand up and put it back into the bed.
Miaoxian was awakened. She was irritated and asked, "What's the
matter?" After Maha Kasyapa explained to her, she was relieved and
apologized to Maha Kasyapa for misunderstanding him.

They spent 12 years together like this until Maha Kasyapa's parents died.

After his parents died, Maha Kasyapa said to Miaoxian, "Now I've
decided to leave home and become a monk. Wait for me here, I'll come
back and get you as soon as I find a wise and able master."

After Maha Kasyapa left home, he painstakingly looked for a master
until he met Buddha Sakyamuni. Drawn to and inspired by the Buddha's
mighty virtue, he accepted the Buddha's doctrine and converted himself
under the Buddha's command.

But among the Buddha's early sangha, no women were allowed. Therefore Maha Kasyapa could not go home and get Miaoxian.

Miaoxian was waiting at home for the news from her husband, but no news
came from him for a couple of years. She resolutely gave their fortune
to others, walked to the riverside of the Ganges, and became an
apprentice of a non-Buddhist master.

Later on, the Buddha allowed having women followers and therefore the
Buddhist Nuns Sangha was established. Maha Kasyapa obtained the
Buddha's permission and got Miaoxian into the nuns' sangha.

However, her uncommonly beautiful appearance often incurred others'
jealousy and gossip. Miaoxian sighed for being a woman, and would
always avoid the crowd when she went out to beg alms. Even so, she
couldn't avoid others' talking and rumoring about her. She felt very
guilty and therefore stopped begging for alms.

Maha Kasyapa was very sympathetic to her and obtained the permission from the Buddha to share his food with her every day.

This matter caused another wave of gossip, "It's said that they've
never slept together for 12 years of marriage, but now after leaving
home to become monk and nun, they still have a personal relationship
while involved in practicing self-cultivation."

Maha Kasyapa heard it. He was not affected, but to encourage Miaoxian
to advance vigorously in self-cultivation, he stopped sharing food with
her or seeing her.

After this setback, Miaoxian became extremely conscientious in
practicing self-cultivation. She refused to sleep for consecutive days
and nights and practiced self-cultivation with a righteous mind. She
advanced vigorously even more and more and was finally awakened to

Later on the Buddha praised her, saying, "Among all the nuns, Miaoxian's retrocognition is the best."

Humans think that happiness comes from the satisfaction of human
desires. In fact, in the eyes of those with wisdom, the most suffering
humans are those who think this way, because desire is the source of
all sufferings.

Giving them up is the only way to become truly free.

Translated from:

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